From the top shelf

IN EVERY endeavour Ken Maughan takes on he is only satisfied in giving no less than 100 per cent effort.

Two in particular stand out, service to the South Grafton Fire Brigade, now totalling the magical figure of 50 years, and to rowing: in administration, competition and coaching, coaching through the Grafton Rowing Club, various schools and the South Grafton Water Brigade in oarsmanship, flood rescue work, competition and training.

Ken's rowing and coaching career, although slightly less than his service to the fire brigade is still substantial, with an amazing 47 years duty, and as with his fire brigade these duties continue.

He has taught numerous people from the young to the mature, male and female alike, the correct art of rowing whether it be for competition, for health reasons or for the sheer pleasure of being involved.

He won place medals in State championships in single sculls and has trained high school teams to win NSW CHS championships and pointscores.

A history of involvement in the South Grafton Fire Brigade goes through three generations of the Maughan family. In fact since the South Grafton Fire Brigade was inaugurated 95 years ago there has always been at least one member of the Maughan family involved.

It began with Ken's grandfather, W J Maughan in the brigade's foundation year, 1910, when J T McKittrick was mayor of South Grafton and the first club captain was W D McDermid.

W J Maughan's son, Ken's father Lesley James (always known as Jim) Maughan a few years later also became a brigade member and for many terms was brigade captain, taking over the job from long serving captain Stan Schwinghammer.

Ken was 19 when he joined his father in the brigade in June, 1955.

He has been a valued member ever since and currently is brigade vice captain to Dennis Pye.

Kenneth James Maughan was born in Grafton in November 1935, son of Jim and Nina (nee Small) Maughan.

He has a younger brother Billy who has now made Melbourne his home.

The family lived in Ryan Street, South Grafton, opposite the western corner of outer McKittrick Park.

It was in 1945 that Ken witnessed his first flood with the township inundated and although surrounded, water did not actually enter the Maughan household.

A different scenario the following year, 1946, when the higher river level caused severe flooding so the family decided it was time to shift residence to the South Grafton Hill.

This they did in 1950 moving beyond the South Grafton Primary School to Ridge Street.

Ken's early education had begun at in the infants' division of South Grafton Public with Miss Mary Gillett as teacher. Later Ken progressed through to sixth class and on to Grafton High School.

"My main sport at primary and high schools was rugby league. I really wasn't that good at it but I certainly enjoyed the sport," Ken said.

He comes from a rugby league background with his father, Jim and uncles Ken snr and Jack all having played first grade for South Grafton.

The younger Ken left school when he was 15 and took up a carpentry apprenticeship with well known builder and Presbyterian churchman Bob Jack.

It was during this time that he signed up with the South Grafton Rugby League Club playing junior football but when 18 decided against going on further.

Illness forced Bob Jack's retirement from the building industry and for Ken's remaining two years of apprenticeship he transferred to Henry (HH) Thompson.

"Henry Thompson was and is a remarkable man and tradesman," Ken said.

"When I was working for him he told me he thought he would retire when I came out of my time at 21 but Henry, now in his 90s, continues on in his Grafton workshop, specialising in furniture items.

"After coming out of my apprenticeship I was three years working for builder John Barnier and then began 21 years employment with the Reg J Want Company.

"I started with Want in 1961 and my first job was working on the construction of the new South Grafton Ex-Servicemen's Club in Wharf Street.

"The years with Reg Want was followed by 10 years as carpenter at the South Grafton Abattoir for Gilbertsons and then I went back for a further 10 years when the abattoir ownership was transferred."

Ken followed that with a short time of self-employment, doing, as he called it, 'bits and pieces' until reaching 65 and deciding to retire.

Retirement has only been a word, though. As through his trade working years, his community service continues unabated with the Fire Brigade and in rowing circles.

It was in 1958 that Ken Maughan married Daphne Green at Grafton's Christ Church Cathedral. They have a daughter Susan and son James, both now living in Brisbane.

When Ken joined the South Grafton Fire Brigade in 1955 the fire engine was a second hand Dennis which had to be cranked to start it.

"By ordinance we were allowed a maximum 10 (these days 12) members in the brigade and on call-out a maximum five could fit on the engine at the back in the open and hanging on," Ken said.

"Spectacular for onlookers but hairy for the firemen.

"Our uniforms were heavy coats and trousers, knee high boots and brass helmets and carrying an axe for forcing entry if needed and a branch spanner for setting water control.

"When I joined five of the 10 firemen worked at McKittricks General Store which fronted Skinner Street ? my father Jim in the grocery department and later manager of the supermarket, and the other four were, Stan Charleston, Leo Spicer, Stuart Angel and Don Holdt.

"Because there were a record five working at the one place there was a direct fire alarm bell from the brigade headquarters to the store and it was a tremendous contribution from the firm in man hours etc when they all were on a call-out."

Ken has seen a number of changes to uniform and to equipment over his now 50 years with the brigade and that original Dennis engine was replaced by a later model Dennis and then a Dennis Ace, all three second hand, and then a new International came and next an up-graded International and the current engine, an Isuzu diesel.

"The Isuzu is easier to use than any of the previous engines and has seating for six on board and overall is a nice bit of machinery," Ken said.

During his 50 years Ken has worked with a number of captains, his father, then Charlie Husking and for the past few years record-breaking Rebels footballer Dennis Pye.

There have been many fires in grass and trees, houses and major buildings as well as attending rescues and numerous road accidents and liquid spill clean-ups.

Ken recalls several of the biggest fires attended, some jointly with other brigades, the Grafton racetrack members' stand, the South Grafton Ex-Servicemen's Club, the Prince Edward Theatre in South Grafton and the former dance hall, The Trocadero in Queen Street.

Ken joined the Grafton Rowing Club in the early 1960s when then club captain, Darrell Amos, invited him to try out. That was the beginning and he has come a long, long way since.

He started rowing Gladstone skiffs, butcher boats and fours and later as well as competing in these with distinction, proved a top class competitor in the single sculls.

It wasn't long after becoming a member of the rowing club that he also joined the South Grafton Volunteer Water Brigade, involved not only in training and competition but in flood rescue work.

He was a member of the water brigade until recent years when the State Emergency Service (SES) took over the work with power boats.

Each Saturday during summer Ken would compete in handicap skiff racing (later sculling events) and then in the popular pointscore floodboat flutters where crews would be determined each Saturday by a draw from the hat, to allow variety.

He was tremendous sculler as demonstrated by two excellent second placings in NSW championships finishing second to Olympian Islay Lee in a State title held at Brushgrove and the following year second to another Australian representative, Steve Rolls, in the NSW lightweight sculls at Penrith.

He not only proved himself in the sculling events but with the Grafton club as a valued crew member in fours and butcher boats and as an enthusiastic and motivating coach.

Rowing Club president for the past 17 years, and also a grand competitor in open and masters rowing events, Greg Thompson decribed Ken Maughan as an extra-ordinary man, particularly in his dedicated work in coaching at club or school levels.

"Ken took Grafton High School rowers to a number of NSW CHS titles and pointscore championships as well as helping St Aloysius (now part of McAuley Catholic College) in rowing and competition events," he said.

"He seems inexhaustible and if not coaching out on the water is using his carpentry skills to help around the boatshed with repairs, particularly to boats and boat equipment."

Ken who has served many years as rowing club captain including the past 17 in succession and was given life membership back in the 1970s.

His wife Daphne has been a great supporter of his work and with her own contribution to the rowing club and is a current vice president and also a life member.

South Grafton Fire Brigade captain Dennis Pye, like Greg Thompson, heaps praise on Ken Maughan whom he terms 'an exceptional member'.

"He has received the Queens Award for service to the Brigade and the community, backing up a variety of other certificates and awards, including the NSW Premier's Award for service during the 1994 bushfire emergency," Dennis said.

"We are giving him a celebratory dinner tonight (Friday) to honour his tremendous effort of 50 years service to the Fire Brigade and to say to him 'Thank you, mate, for your golden service.'"

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